Natalie Portman stars in Darren Aronofsky’s follow up to his previous Academy Award Nominated film The Wrestler. Much like the previous film this one focuses on one central character and the struggles they have with their life. The las film focused on a 1980’s Hulk Hogan-esque man who can’t let go of his glory days while this one focuses on a veteran ballerina who strives to be the lead in the ballet Swan Lake.
While the film’s plot seems to be rather slow moving it’s nothing that requires deep thought about it. At least on first viewing. The film focuses on Portman as the ballerina getting what I believe to be the lead in Swan Lake, as I’m not familiar with the play or ballet or whatever it is. Portman’s character is perfect for the one role but not the other. As Portman tries to land the role perfectly she slowly an ever so surely transforms into the “black swan” as she leaves behind her sanity.
At least that’s what I gather from one viewing. The film’s writing isn’t the greatest in the world, not going to lie, Inception had a superior script and dialogue but Aronofsky delivers a visual story that most people will miss on. There are cuts that no one should make in film or anything, the kind of cuts that professors will tell you are bad but they work as you delve deeper into the insanity that is Portman’s mind.
What helps this film’s narrative is the acting. While supporting cast which features a strong acting outing from Mila Kunis (That ’70s Show). Kunis delivers a performance that will make her at least more of an actress. Her character is done in a way that it’s the exact opposite of Portman in the beginning. Vincent Cassel plays the director of the play and is a total douchebag to the max. But he’s well rather good at it. He helps move Portman further along to the edge of sanity. Winoa Ryder rounds out a stellar supporting cast. Her brief role in the film, albeit brief like I said, is rather impressive to an extent.
The stand out award winning performance belongs to Portman. Her acting near the beginning of the film has her in a closeted very naive ballerina who lives with her mother. As she fights for the role as I’ve stated her life begins to fall to pieces. Portman’s spiral downwards begins when her director begins to seduce her as he gives her an assignment to “touch herself” and a large amount of jump cuts help her establish that she is transforming into her mother’s darkest fears.
I love the way Aronofsky directs this film. It’s with great passion as he does with all his films but this one seems so meticulous, as if there is not a single frame that is wasted. Each and every shot is well planned, thought out months in advance before it is even shot. This style of directing is intense and leaves the viewers with a heavy dose of well there is no way to define it.
While I am able to find the depth and meaning in movies that seem trivial like Tron: Legacy I find it harder to do with a film like Black Swan. Obviously there is the theme that change is inevitable, Portman’s mother represents the fear of change, the fact that with this change she’ll be irrelevant. Portman represents the change itself and how it evolves a human being into something that isn’t human. While Jeff Bridges taught us about religion and how perfection is impossible this film teaches us that madness is brought out through the strive for perfection as Portman strives for that perfect performance. Through the film itself, the evolution of character we can truly learn that to attain perfection one must be truly mad.